CHENNAI: Parameswari, a school dropout, became a desludging operator in
Trichy after her sister and brother-in-law passed away. She had not just the responsibility of her four kids but her sister’s two girls as well. Her story has won an
international award from the Netherland-based organisation – Fecal Sludge Management Alliance (FSMA).

The FSMA conducted the short film contest named World Emptying Challenge (
WEC) as part of the sixth edition of the International FSM conference to showcase the work of septic tank emptying professionals from around the world and enable greater visibility for their work.

The short film on Parameswari won the first prize at the contest after having the highest likes on YouTube (6,426). A short film from Indonesia won the second prize with 6,265 likes. There were 23 entries.

Parameswari’s story was made into a short film by the Tamil Nadu Urban Sanitation Support Programme (TNUSSP) which is a technical support unit of the Tamil Nadu government in improving sanitation and scaling fecal sludge management (FSM) across the state.

Parameswari’s daily routine as a septic tank emptier is highlighted in the short film. It also highlights how she found success in a male-dominated field.

In the short film, Parameshwari recounts how her husband, a daily wager, and she realised early that she had to work to run the house. She began taking de-sludging contracts and purchased a truck and a hose.

“When people call to clean their septic tanks, I take my truck and a few labourers and clean it using the hose pipe. Many have asked us to enter the tanks and clean them. But I ensure we never enter any tanks,” she says.

She has faced a lot of societal stigma due to her job. “They won’t even offer water to us. Many would even inquire about our caste before talking to us,” she says.